An Introduction to the Wreck Dives of Aqaba
The Jordanian Red Sea coast is fairly short, but the port city of Aqaba is home to some wonderful, and mostly very easy, scuba diving. The reefs are colourful and the sea and currents are usually calm, which makes the best of Aqaba's wreck dives enjoyable for those with little experience. Here's a short guide to what divers can expect when visting.
Probably the best known of Jordan's wrecks, and until recently the most visited, the Cedar Pride is the wreck of a Lebanese freighter sunk in 1985 as an artificial reef at the request of King Abdullah II. Lying between Rainbow Reef and the Japanese Gardens, the 74m-long wreck lies on its port side, with a maximum depth of around 28m. After almost 35 years, parts of the wreck have been well colonised by coral growth, with the crow's nest a particular highlight. Once a place for crew to stand and keep lookout, it now resembles a large, colourful and overgrown hanging basket, and is one of the most photographed portions of the wreck. The starboard side of the ship is at around 10m of depth, and with the easy conditions and little in the way of current, it makes for an excellent introduction to wrecks for entry-level divers, although an advanced certification is recommended to make the most of the dive. Like most wrecks, the Cedar Pride is home to a wide array of marine life. The usual Red Sea suspects such as lionfish, scorpionfish and moray eels can be found amongst the mostly intact wreckage, schools o snapper and occasionally barracuda frequent the wreck, and hawksbill turtles are common along Aqaba's reefs.
Max Depth 28m | Beginner to Advanced (Recommended)
The C-130 'Hercules' transport aircraft was sunk in November 2017 as an artificial reef and it is a fun, attractive and easily accessible dive. Sunk in less than 18m of water, close to shore and not far from the Tank (see below), the Hercules is also an excellent wreck to snorkel, with the tip of the giant tail fin rising to just below the surface. The exterior is a beginner level dive in almost every respect and although caution must be applied while penetrating any sunken wreck, the aircraft has had all of its doors removed and the cavernous interior makes for easy and atmospheric swim-throughs.
Max Depth 18m | Beginner to Intermediate
The wreck known simply as 'The Tank' is in actual fact an M42 'duster' anti-aircraft vehicle, sunk in 1999 by the Jordanian Royal Ecological Diving Society as another artificial reef project. With a maximum depth of only 6m and just 20m from shore, it's ease of access makes it a fantastic site for dive training, novice divers and snorkellers. It's also a great place for practicing the art of underwater photography. Located just a short distance from the C-130 Hercules, it's a great ending to an easy dive and a lengthy safety stop. The largely intact structure makes it a visual treat, and attracts plenty of reef fish. Several moray eels have also made homes in the wreckage.
Max Depth 6m | Beginner
This large crane barge was deliberately scuttled in 1999 near the Japanese Gardens dive site, and sits on its starboard side at a maximum depth of 57m. With the highest point at 35m, it's accessible to divers with advanced and deep certifications before ascending back into shallower depths to enjoy the gardens. It's an excellent wreck for technical diving, especially aficionados of the Tec/Rec courses that are becoming more and more popular. Tyres and winches can be seen along the superstructure and the crane which broke and led to the eventual sinking of the ship is swathed in black corals and gorgonian fans, and a photographer's delight. There is plenty of coral growth, if less extensive than the Cedar Pride due to the Taiyong's depth, but lionfish hunting the schools of glassfish that populate the interior make for an excellent show.
Max Depth 57m | Advanced (limited) to Tec/Rec and Technical (recommended)